(Everyone out shopping? Yeah, I thought so…)
Ah, the holiday season. What better way to spend the end of the year, than in spiritual reflection, decorating trees, buying perfect presents for loved ones, sending out cheery holiday cards and newsletters, drinking champagne and eating fabulous little cookies, indulging in the free DVDs that the evil corporations continue to send striking screenwriters because force majeure be damned, the Oscars must go on…)
This Holiday season, if I don’t do at the very least five pages a day WITHOUT FAIL I will not make the deadline of my next book. Not even Christmas Day off for me.
(Michael says – “How long are you going to keep doing this to yourself? “ But how am I doing this to myself? Nobody tells a grocery store clerk or a bank manager or postal worker – “Oh, you don’t have to work today. Why do that to yourself? Let’s go see a movie.” Well, actually, people probably DO say that, but if such advice is actually followed, the result is dismissal and disgrace and homelessness).
Now, in some ways it’s not such a loss, for me. For one thing, I’m not actually a Christian, and I don’t have children that I need to halt everything for, and my family is very laid back about all holidays in general, and I hate malls, and as long as we see Sweeney Todd this weekend, Michael’s not going to complain too much (mostly because I can keep him quiet with all the free DVDs). I must say it’s annoying to have to do the more obligatory Christmas things without getting the benefit of time off from work like everyone else, but I knew this job was dangerous when I took it.
But there is one part of the holiday season that I can celebrate at the same time that I’m doing my pages, and that doesn’t grate on me because I’m missing out on all the fun. And that’s today. It’s Winter Solstice.
As we all probably know, technically, the solstice is the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s the longest night and the shortest day of the year.
We also all probably have heard that ritual celebrations practiced at Christmas go back to pre-Christian times, and we’ve co-opted many solstice traditions (like Yule logs and Christmas trees and the lighting of candles and the birth of the sun – or son) for Christmas. The celebration of solstice extends across pretty much every culture.
But I particularly like the magic aspect of solstice. In pagan tradition, the year is divided into quarters, and the two solstices and the two Equinoxes are the most powerful times of the whole year. Whatever you do during these times gets a certain extra push from the universe. I find that invariably to be true. Your dreams are more powerful, money arrives in the mail, you solve that problem in Chapter 10.
Seriously. For authors, for example, this is a fabulous time to write – your productivity is through the roof. I didn’t just get some kick-ass pages done on my book in the last few days – I also have been cranking the pages out on the novella I’ve been putting off because of panic about the book. Every research book I’ve picked up has been THE EXACT BOOK with the EXACT information I needed to move to the next chapter. I just feel stronger and more capable about everything.
Running around buying gifts is one thing, fine, but the days just before and just after Solstice will invariably turn up some real gifts, cosmic gifts. Pay attention and see what shows up for you, and if you feel like it, share.
I wish everyone Happy Christmas and everything else that you celebrate, but especially this year, an extra Solstice something for all.
Now, back to work.
Or, you know – shopping.
Alex, my absolute favorite holiday is winter solstice, for all the reasons you described. Special things always happen this time of year.
On Thursday my daughter raced in to tell me a baby raccoon was in the paddock. When I got outside, in leaps and bounds, there was indeed a baby raccoon at the foot of the big oak tree I had photographed and posted on my blog in honor of LAST year’s winter solstice.
The four horses were standing in a circle around the tree, looking at the baby raccoon. Three of our cats were making a much wider circle around the entire scene.
And of course, at the center, was that little raccoon, black and white and the perfect metaphor for light and dark and the balance between the two.
That was my best gift this year.
Happy solstice, happy writing!
Of course Billie has the absolute archetypal Solstice experience to relate.
You are a constant example that magic is everywhere you look – if you’re looking.
Solstice at our house is that magical time when my wife gets royally sick of me blasting Jethro Tull’s “Songs from the Wood” album at top volume.
Have a happy one and good luck with the pages. Me, I’m blasting out 1000+ words a day on the new one, not because I have a deadline, but becuase I’m at the place where I’m still in love with it.
I’m so glad I’m not the only one working Christmas Day! OK, X, I’m opening myself to the possibilities of the solstice. I need a little magic this week.
Have a blessed Solstice, and a happy and healthy new year. And good luck with the work; I’ll be working this week too, including Christmas day.
Of course, our house has two Jews and one “Jewish witch” (or Judeo-Pagan, though I find that label far too contrived), so there’s not a lot of religious reason for us not to work on the 25th.
Hah, Dusty – Jethro Tull is great solstice music! I think I’ll try that, today.
Well, there, I feel much better already – EVERYONE’S working on Christmas.
I’d never heard Judeo-pagan before, Tammy – I like it!
Happy Holidays to you as well, Alex!
And yeah – I’ll most likely be working on Christmas Day too – no family gathering this year – too spread apart and bad weather screwing things up.
And LU? You got the magic, baby – it’s in your fingers when they hit the keyboard.
Happy Holidays All!
The solstices are my favorite times of year. In particular Winter Solstice feels so incredibly hopeful. I see it as a beginning each time.
I’ll be working this holiday season. It’s a pleasure. And, I want to clear out the mess in my office (and my emails and my computer in general) to welcome in the New Year.
Of course, I have about five or six new year celebrations each year — the Solstice, New Year, my birthday, the first day of Spring, Rosh Hashanah — so there are lots of opportunities to make things right.
Merry holidays to those that celebrate. Enjoy your productivity, Alex.
****Hey, I’ve got a question: If we want to contribute $ to families suffering because of the strike — where’s the best place to send?
Happy Holidays back atcha, EE!! Hope to see a lot of you in the New Year.
We have a lot of solstice-lovers here – why am I not surprised?
Thanks, Pari –
The Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund has been established to help non-WGA professionals affected by the strike.
The Foundation is accepting donations now. Send them to 7000 W. Third St. LA 90048, and indicate “Industry Support Fund.”
If you want to directly help the strike efforts, there are several options at UnitedHollywood.com
Sorry, I forgot the link!
I had a minor internal organ decide to quit this week in a spectacular fashion. We have parted company.
I am spending the day, and most of next week, lounging about between pain killer induced naps. Family and friends are doting on me and keeping my spirits up.
Happy Merry Holidays.
Fiona, yike! So glad you’re okay. Am I terrible for LOL at the way you phrased the announcement of your loss?
And pain killers are a silver lining for just about anything, aren’t they?
Feel better SOON.
Alex, there seem to be quite a number of people whose spiritual roots lie in Judaism but who are drawn to pagan spiritual paths. “Jewitch” is another term I’ve heard used. My spouse refers to me as a “new age fru-fru Jew”. As for myself, I resist labels, but I rather like the Hebrew word “Kohenet” (Priestess) myself.
I think we’re surrounded by multiple Kohenets here today! Happy Solstice to all of you.
“Jewitch” is great!
But JT’s right – we’re surrounded by Kohenets, and not just today.
Bright Blessings to you, Alex and to everyone else as well! Hope you had a wonderful Solstice!
You know what I love about this post?
It is so absolutely Alex. It’s not written, it’s spoken. I can see and hear X right now, at some hotel bar, saying all this. Verbatim.
Writers take note – you want to write naturally? Have your words sound like they’re rolling right off the tongues of your characters and keyboards? Read X.
Well, thanks, G!
I really appreciate the compliment – especially since I just finished reading Shirley Jackson’s hysterical memoirs of raising her children (yes, Shirley Jackson the classic horror writer also made a living writing comic family stories a la Erma Bombeck) – and I have just been in awe and despair over her voice in those stories – as if she’s just sitting at a kitchen table over coffee telling about her day that gets progressively and grotesquely out of control.
I’ve been laughing so hard I literally stopped breathing a couple of times.
LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGESRAISING DEMONS
by Shirley Jackson (Collected in THE MAGIC OF SHIRLEY JACKSON)